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The Final Chapter of the Ricketts Park Series: Connie Mack World Series Time

How you doin Sombrero Nation?  I know I have not posted in a while and I apologize for that.  I have been busy handling my coaching duties for the Farmington Cardinals, your 2010 FABC representative Host team in the 2010 Connie Mack World Series.  I say that with pride.  The Cardinals were the winner of the local city league (state) tournament.  Winner of this tourney gets an automatic bid in the annual Connie Mack World Series tournament.

Early in the year I began writing pieces about my city’s spectacular baseball field, Ricketts Park.  As the start of August runs near, the FABC Connie Mack League embarks on a journey.  This journey leads to the holy grail of Amateur baseball, the one and only Ricketts Park.  As the local teams of the Farmington league do battle, every last one of them has one common one thought in their brain; “If we win this thing, I get to be in the Connie Mack World Series!”  I write this piece with a special piece of my heart, for I grew up and still reside in Farmington, NM.  I grew up watching first round draft picks play on the field that I hoped to one day play on myself.  As a 17 year old I lost in the championship round after throwing a complete game 1 hitter (that can still be argued today as a no-hitter) and lost.  As an 18 year old, I was beat on Championship Night by Mike Dunn, who just recently got called back to the show by the Braves.  Last year he even won a ring with the Yankees.  Not a bad guy to lose to at 18 years old.  Then, last year, fellow writer Barfy and I lost on championship night; as coaches.  I was actually picked up my 18 year old summer by Barfy’s team, the Sky Sox.  But I digress.  There will be time for a trip down memory lane later.

Growing up in Farmington means spending years as a youngin’ in the game, sitting in the stadium bleachers watching the greats play.  Greats are the other teams that come here for the week.  By greats, I mean one of the greatest ever played the exact same centerfield grass that I played in years later.  That’s right, Ken Griffey Jr. roamed that outfield at as a 15 year old kid, for the Midland Redskins, before he became The Kid we would all fall head over heels in love with.

As a young kid I dreamed of playing in the Series.  I remember when I was 12 and got my first real baseball glove, the famous Rawlings Griffey trapeze model in 12”, and it was described to me as being “the exact same glove as the ones the guys use in the Connie Mack World Series.”  It was everything to me, to be in this CMWS thing.  As I grew older, I began to see the tournament in a new light.  Turns out, not just any old ball player is in this tournament.  Every single one of those guys is playing college in baseball, I tell myself.

Every year, after AABC leagues across America and Puerto Rico have finished finding winners from different, predetermined regional areas, the 10 teams left standing convene on little, old, oil and gas town, Farmington, New Mexico for one week of the summer in August.  This year’s dates are Aug.6- 13th.  The Connie Mack World Series is the greatest thing that this town (Farmington) has to offer.  It has helped the city turn a baseball field into a baseball stadium that rivals any high school field in the nation.  Some places have their county fair to help mark the end of summer.  In Farmington, we have the Connie Mack World Series.

The weeklong extravaganza hits the ground running as the first teams begin to arrive from their various destinations at the Farmington Civic Center for sign-ins.  Before they enter the building they are given a private viewing of the local high school dance talent.  Those boys eat it up.  After that show is over the ballplayers find themselves inside the actual Civic Center.  Many different things are going on inside.  This includes filling out proper paperwork and signing in, or maybe an interview with a local reporter coving your first game, and finally, meeting your new host family for the first time.  There are also booths set up and each booth is selling memorabilia with your team logo.  It’s a trip.  It really is the first time, as a baseball player, a kid feels like they have made it in their sport.  This is the exact feeling upon arriving at the Civic Center (via police escort by the way) and seeing all of this going on.  Once inside, the players and coaches are ushered in to the auditorium for their pre-tournament meeting with all the heads of AABC and FABC.  They talk about rules.  They talk about how you are not to be throwing baseball games for anybody.  I know it seems a bit drastic, but they really want you to understand how big of an event this actually is.  They even have to talk to us about not talking to agents or accepting any gifts from people besides our host families.  Because of the level of talent that is in this one tournament, people are on high alert for anything.  The whole charade is over in 15 minutes, max.  The whole time they talk to you, the championship trophy is sitting on a table in front of them.  With your eyes finally getting to see the prize, players then head out and head home with their respective host families.

All night games are sellout crowds.  I’m not talking hundreds either.  We are talking a few thousand fans, sitting in a stadium setting around this ball field.  They are especially packed for the opening game of the home-town Host team.  The support gives you the idea that you are not just playing for your team anymore.  It is the first time that the team actually have fans who are paying to see them.  Yet just another new level of respect a player reaches, and receives, during the greatest week of a Farmington summer.  If you play great in the CMWS, you our considered top notch talent.  I refuse to name drop anymore than I have already and will only say that many of the guys you see during this event reach The Show and have a meaningful impact.

Plain and simple, the week of the CMWS is tits.  You play national, top level, talent in front of thousands.  If you are from Farmington, it means more than that.  It means you have to now represent an entire city.  People are paying money to watch you, and have never met you.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Amateur baseball at its finest and Farmington pulls it off year in and year out.  So if you ever get a chance to swing through little, old, Farmington, make sure you check out the city’s gift to baseball.  The one.  The only.  Ricketts Park.

3 Comments

  1. Daniel Clark says:

    i have a story i think can help reflect what the series means for kids growing up in farmington:

    so ricketts is swarming with hundreds of kids all week who follow players everywhere trying to nab sweet merchandise. the luckiest kids get bats, jerseys, gloves,and hats. as a youngster i was one of the kids, however, and i was once thrilled to receive a single shoe as a gift from a player. it really didn’t matter what it was. i just loved the series and wanted a piece of it to take with me. when i was playing in my first series, i made sure to pack my bag as full as i could with shirts, old gloves, old hats, bats, and batting gloves as soon as we dropped to the elimination bracket. there were a couple of kids who had been following our team all season trying to be bat boys and just really wanting to be included with us. i told those kids to come see me after we were eliminated because i had something special for them. i gave them each a glove. these weren’t ratty old gloves either. they were still playable. one was the first glove i ever really loved. it was a mizuno world win V from when i was 11…so it was about 5 years old. last summer one of the kids on the squad griff and i managed asked me what i thought of his glove. i noticed it was a mizuno and started telling him how i personally preferred rawlings and wilsons, but that mizuno made nice stuff. i told him one of my all-time favorites was a mizuno. he asked me if it was the one he was holding. i noticed that the one he had was a world win V, so i said, “well, yeah. just like that one actually.” he replied to me, “coach, you gave me this glove when i was ten and it has been my favorite glove since.” that knocked me back a bit because this kid’s dad was drafted and had a pro career. i assume his house was littered with baseball memorabilia. i think the point of the story is that the series turns farmington teenagers into local heroes for a week every summer. to youngsters the memories the players provide serve as a motivating force to keep working with the game so that one day all the kids begging for shirts, gloves, and memories will have an opportunity to return a few one day.

  2. John Livingston says:

    great post Griffin! Also enjoyed reading your comment Daniel. mizuno is what I always had. it has already been fun watching the kids in Ricketts scramble for foul balls to get them signed by their favorite Farmington players. I can’t wait to experience this World Series from the perspective of a reporter.

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